Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
I recently enjoyed an AMAZING holiday in the Maldives. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (new) Business Class Brussels to Dubai
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (old) Business Class Dubai to Male
- Review: Soneva Jani Chapter One
- Review: Soneva Jani Chapter Two (today)
- Review: Velaa Private Island
- Review: Soneva Fushi
- Review: Anantara Kihavah Maldives
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (old) First Class Male to Dubai
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (new) First Class Dubai to Brussels
Today: Review of Soneva Jani Chapter Two (Maldives)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Soneva Jani Chapter Two
- Tip: contact me to get complimentary VIP perks at Soneva Jani
Located on an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll, Soneva Jani is the Maldives’ most exclusive and famous resort. The property features 51 overwater pool villas, spread along two jetties that curve into a 5.6 km (3,4 mi) magnificent lagoon of crystal clear waters. Known as Chapter One and Chapter Two, both jetties are connected to the Maldives’ largest resort island, a tropical paradise fringed by pristine beaches and blanketed with lush tropical greenery. Highlights at Soneva Jani include the villas’ retractable roofs, private water slides, a wide range of sublime restaurants, personalized experiences & excursions, and a spectacular new spa facility, Soneva Soul. Guests staying at Chapter Two can benefit from an all-inclusive way to experience the best of the resort with Soneva Unlimited.
Soneva Jani features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury resorts in the Maldives, the most fabulous overwater villas in the Maldives, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and my favorite hotels in the world.
Have you ever stayed at Soneva Jani Chapter Two? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- Comparison of Chapter One & Chapter Two
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The 27 overwater villas at Soneva Jani Chapter Two – called Water Reserves – are the stars of the resort and have been designed to maximize a sense of seclusion, luxury and privacy. Each villa features vast outdoor spaces, with a private pool, extensive decks and terraces, and many have waterslides into the ocean. Inside, the elegant, laid-back interiors evoke the calming ocean setting, with large glass portholes looking straight into the clear waters below. Commanding unforgettable views of the lagoon’s fifty shades of blue, There are 20 One Bedroom Water Reserves, 6 Two Bedroom Water Reserves (including one which has been designed to accommodate differently abled guests) and a Four Bedroom Water Reserve (the largest overwater villa in the Maldives, which I reviewed here). Soneva Jani’s existing Four Bedroom Private Reserve on the island is now also part of Chapter Two.
- During my holiday, I was upgraded to a phenomenal Two Bedroom Water Reserve, located on the rotonda at the end of the Soneva Jani Chapter Two jetty. The vast ground floor featured a spacious master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, dressing room and outdoor shower, plus an adjacent children’s sleeping area. A retractable roof over the master bedroom slid back at the touch of a button to reveal starry skies. Also found on the ground floor were a beautiful dining room (with the dining table set on a glass panel above the water), a light-filled lounge with ensuite bathroom (so the lounge could be used as an additional children room if needed), a study room, and walk-in pantry with a mini bar. The second bedroom was upstairs, and featured an additional dressing room, bathroom, comfortable seating area and dining sala with roof deck.
- Similar to all the other overwater villas at Soneva Jani Chapter Two, the Two Bedroom Water Reserve featured a vast outdoor deck. The main outdoor deck was centered around a massive private freshwater pool (there’s also a second sun deck upstairs). Contrary to the villas at Chapter One, the pool at the Chapter Two villas has been moved to the front of the pool deck, turning it into an infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean. The pool deck featured plenty of space for sun loungers and daybeds, with extra overhangs that created more shade. Catamaran nets were suspended above the lagoon, while curved steps lead from the pool deck to the water below. Next to the pool was a curved water slide that went straight into the lagoon, while a sunken circular lounging area between the pool and the slide commanded panoramic views over the ocean, and was the perfect setting for relaxing and intimate dinners.
- The overwater villas at Soneva Jani Chapter Two are “quieter” compared to their counterparts at Soneva Jani Chapter One. The Water Reserves have been raised high enough above the ocean so that the waves do not break against the underside like most overwater villas in the Maldives, thus reducing noise and vibrations. The walls use recycled Styrofoam as insulation, which helps keep the interiors cooler and serves to muffle the sound of the wind and waves. With a push of a button, the retractable roof slides back above the master bed to reveal sunny skies or starlit nights; the new mechanism is now made using aluminium, rather than steel, making its operation even smoother and quieter. Also, the curving jetty that links the Water Reserves to the island has been redesigned with the jetty planks laid lengthwise rather than width-wise to reduce the noise of buggies and bicycles riding along them.
- Guests staying in any of the Soneva Jani Chapter Two villas can enjoy the exclusive ‘Soneva Unlimited’ package, an indulgent new offering that invites guests to experience every facet of Soneva Jani to their heart’s desire, included in the price of the villa. Soneva Unlimited is the world’s best all-inclusive formula, as it includes unlimited fine dining and drinks, wines, experiences and spa treatments, with no fine print or exclusions. This is the full list of what is included when staying at Soneva Jani Chapter Two:
- Unlimited dining at all bars and restaurants
- Unlimited in-villa dining
- Unlimited non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages at all bars and restaurants
- Unlimited wines from the Soneva Unlimited wine list
- Unlimited experiences from the property’s Experiences Menu, including diving
- Unlimited spa treatments and massages at the Soneva Spa including visiting wellness practitioners
- Unlimited access to visiting Michelin-starred chef dinners and onsite experiences
- Daily replenishment of your in-villa minibar
- Daily laundry service
- A dedicated Barefoot Butler
- Return shared seaplane transfers from Malé
- Guests from both Soneva Jani Chapter One and Two can freely wander around and make use of all the resort facilities. Chapter One and Chapter Two are connected by an island – called Medhufaru – which is fringed by pristine beaches and blanketed with lush tropical greenery. Medhufaru is the largest resort island in the Maldives and it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to bike from Chapter Two to Chapter One or vice versa (e-bikes are provided to all guests, and buggy and speedboat service is provided as well, 24/7, at no extra charge). Medhufaru features a small beach club on its northern tip (North Beach), located right next to Chapter One, and a much larger, palm fringed beach club on its southern tip (South Beach). The latter is located right next to Chapter Two, and thus more convenient for guests staying here. It is also more developed compared to the beach club at North Beach as it features three restaurants on site (breakfast venue, So Primitive, and the Crab Shack; more on that below).
- As mentioned above, a stay at Soneva Jani Chapter Two includes dining at all restaurants at the resort (no matter whether they are located at Chapter One or Chapter Two). And Soneva Jani does not fail to impress on the gastronomic level as the menus are as extravagant as the resort itself. Everything is of the highest quality and presented with total care and attention, from the freshest tuna and thin pizzas, to delicate Indian curries, slow roasted lamb, and delicious salads. Between the two sections of the island (Chapter One & Chapter Two), there are nine dining outlets in total, offering various destinations cuisines and private dining experiences, where the resort’s chefs trick your taste buds and mind with elaborate disguises.
- The main restaurant, called Down To Earth, is located within Chapter One’s The Gathering, and offers a sumptuous breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner. Down To Earth has a myriad of nooks, boardwalks, decks and other spaces to choose from for dining, so every meal can be set in a totally fresh environment if you wish.
- Overseas is the brainchild of celebrated Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren. Inspired by its spectacular location next to The Gathering, this casual, overwater restaurant serves lunch and dinner menus of plant-based and pescatarian dishes, with produce freshly picked from Soneva Jani’s organic gardens, or sustainably caught in the waters around the resort.
- Seating up to 20 guests, So Imaginative is a private room inside The Gathering perfect for celebrations. Soneva Jani’s sommeliers can create inspired wine tastings and wine dinners here, selecting the perfect pairings from the wine tower.
- So Starstruck comprises four dining tables around the first overwater observatory in the Maldives, located next to the Gathering. Here, guests dine on an expertly crafted menu while a resident Astronomer is on-hand to help navigate the skies.
- So Wild by Diana Von Cranach is a fully plant-based restaurant in the midst of Soneva Jani’s organic garden. Diana’s 50 years of experience in plant-focused dining come to life in a menu that draws inspiration from Ayurveda and highlights ingredients grown at the resort.
- So Engaging is Soneva Jani’s chef’s table, which offers a mystery menu for five very special guests. Here, guests get a front row seat to the action, and converse with the chef as he prepares exciting, delicious dishes.
- Chef Nikki heads up his Japanese kitchen at Director’s Cut Restaurant, serving modern style sashimi, black cod and other Japanese favorites with a contemporary twist. Guests enjoy a set meal while taking in a classic film at Cinema Paradiso.
- So Primitive’s centerpiece is a fire pit on South Beach where different cooking techniques are honored. Think roasting, grilling, searing and cooking in a kettle, clay pots (on coals), salt-crusted baking and cooking over coals. Guests choose from a menu that features fresh seafood, meats, and plant-based dishes.
- With an upstairs deck to watch sunsets from, the Crab Shack – also located on South Beach – serves Sri Lankan Mud Crab curry and Alaskan crabs. A selection of rosés are the highlight of the drinks menu. The Crab Shack was voted as the ‘world’s most romantic restaurant’ on CNN.
- Guests of Soneva Jani Chapter Two have a choice of two restaurants for breakfast. The main breakfast venue is located in The Gathering, the massive overwater structure at Chapter One (which can be reached by speedboat in 5 minutes, buggy in 15 minutes, or electric bike in 20 min). A second, more intimate venue is a beach shack on South Beach, close to Chapter Two (so most guests of Chapter Two will prefer to have their breakfast here). Both venues offer a lavish and extensive buffet spread complemented by à la carte dishes, juices, coffees and teas (with slightly more choices at the Chapter One restaurant compared to the Chapter Two venue). Both breakfast restaurants also feature an ice cream and chocolate room, where guests can choose from over 50 flavors of ice creams and handmade chocolates (with the cocoa goodness present in blends of up to 95%, be it in the form of mousses, cookies, drinks, bon-bons or truffles). The chocolate and ice cream rooms are open from breakfast till dinner.
- Close to Soneva Jani Chapter Two’s jetty is the resort’s new wellness center, called Soneva Soul (opened in 2022). Located on Medhufaru island, a 2 min bike trip from South Beach, Soneva Soul sets a new standard in holistic wellness. The facility has been designed to harmonize with its breath-taking setting and features two indoor therapy rooms and three open-air treatment pavilions with unmatched views of the spectacular natural surrounds. The wellness center includes a dedicated Ayurvedic Clinic as well as an indoor consultation room for visiting specialists. Alongside a cross-functional fitness area, an open-air yoga pavilion includes facilities for aerial yoga. The new complex also features a retail area, featuring sustainable apparel, wellness products and accessories. Soneva Soul complements Soneva Jani’s original overwater spa, which is located within The Gathering at Chapter One. The latter is a small intimate facility, which houses a couple of treatment rooms, a relaxation lounge, and sauna & steam rooms.
CON & THINGS TO KNOW
- The color of the water around (a few villas of the) Soneva Jani Chapter Two jetty is not as stunningly bright blue as the waters surrounding the Soneva Jani Chapter One jetty. That’s partly explained by the presence of seagrass in the lagoon. Unlike seaweed, for which they are often mistaken for, seagrass are actually flowering plants, like those found on land, with distinct roots, stem and leaves and that grow in shallow, sheltered areas of the coast. Seagrass is a protected plant in the Maldives, as it is part of ocean’s eco-system and a source of food for the sea-turtles and shelter for other sea fauna. While Soneva protects the seagrass, it constantly removes algae, which are the main contributor to the few dark areas in the otherwise majestically blue lagoon.
COMPARISON OF SONEVA CHAPTER ONE AND CHAPTER TWO
Here are the main differences between the Chapter One and Chapter Two experiences:
- The rate for the Chapter Two villas includes anything guests wish for: a dedicated barefoot butler, seaplane transfers, unlimited dining at all restaurants and in-villa dinning, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, unlimited wines from the Soneva Unlimited list, unlimited experiences, unlimited spa treatments, and unlimited access to visiting Michelin-starred chef dinners.
- The villas at Chapter Two have an improved design & layout compared to the villas at Chapter One. For example, the villas at Chapter Two have been raised high enough above the ocean so that the waves do not break against the underside, and the pool has been moved to the front of the pool deck. Soneva is currently planning upgrades to the villas of Chapter One.
- The jetty planks at Chapter Two are laid lengthwise rather than width-wise to reduce the noise of buggies and bicycles riding along them (which is sometimes an issue at Chapter One).
- Halfway the main jetty at Chapter One is an enormous overwater structure, called The Gathering, which houses various dining outlets, as well as a gym, library, boutique shop, chocolate & ice cream parlor, wine cellar and kids club. Chapter Two does not feature any communal buildings, except for a small boutique.
- Guests at Chapter Two will mainly have their breakfast on the beach (at South Beach), while guests of Chapter One will mainly have their breakfast inside the Gathering (which offers more choices). However, guests of both Chapters can have their breakfast wherever they want to.
- Guests of Chapter Two are closer to some of the resort’s key facilities, such as Soneva Soul (the new spa), the outdoor cinema, and facilities at South Beach. However, all guests of both Chapters are given (electric) bikes for the duration of their stay, so it’s easy to explore everything that the resort has on offer.
- The lagoon surrounding the Chapter One jetty is deeper and brighter blue compared to the water at Chapter Two. During my visit, I also had the impression that there was more maritime wildlife present around the Chapter One villas.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: n/a
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 10/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: contact me to get complimentary VIP perks at Soneva Jani. This includes a discounted rate, a resort credit, and two complimentary experiences.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best weather in the Maldives is between January and April, which also means high season (with low availability and very expensive room rates). The monsoon runs from May to October, peaking in June. It is worth paying higher prices and sticking to the dry season as there is nothing to do on a rainy day except drink, eat, work out or scuba dive. Especially November and December, which are often labelled as dry season months, have been very unsettled in recent years.
HOW TO GET THERE
Getting to the Soneva Jani requires a 40-minute seaplane transfer from Male International Airport (MLE). Check the Wikipedia page of Male International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer flights to Male International Airport.
Below is a selection of my photos of Soneva Jani Chapter Two. To view more hotel photos (including breakfast and dinner), click here.
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